ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team threw Chad Venning off the post on his first possession of the ball.
The simple bucket was the first of many.
As the clock ticked down at the end, there was the big man again, bowing to a Bonnie win and his best varsity performance with a thunderdunk.
Venning scored 21 points to give Bona an 80-66 out-of-conference win over Southern Indiana on Tuesday night in front of a crowd of 3,093 at the Reilly Center.
If the Morgan State transfer hadn’t already snagged the number one spot in the middle of Mark Schmidt’s rotation, his career best points in 9-of-15 shots and 3-of-4 from the foul line likely will see him further in the coach’s favor bring graces.
“Chad was great,” Schmidt said. “We bring the ball to him and let some things happen for us. He gave us an inner presence that we need.”
Venning capitalized on his second consecutive start after coming on as a substitute in the first three competitions. He scored 15 points against Bowling Green on Saturday.
“A lot of times[Schmidttellsmetoputmyshoulderintheguysusemybodyreallygetintopeopleandgoup”saidthe6-foot-10270-poundVenning”Ithinkthat’sworkedformesofar”
Venning, whose previous best was 17 points last year, has hit three of his last four games in double digits. He averaged fewer than eight points at Morgan State last season.
“We didn’t expect him to get 21 and 7 in the fifth game of the year,” admitted Schmidt. “But he’s getting better and better. He learns.”
Venning tied for the team-high with seven rebounds and blocked three shots in 30 minutes to aid Bona’s defense against a powerful Southern Indiana offensive team.
The Bonnies (3-2) took control of the game with a 22-6 run that spanned halftime and then a 16-5 spurt that included three 3-pointers from Yann Farell and two more from Daryl Banks III.
Bona shot 6-of-8 from deep to start the second half after going 0-for-4 up to that point. The hot shooting helped establish a 21-point lead from which the Screaming Eagles (2-3) never recovered.
Farrell, hampered early on by foul problems, scored every one of his 13 points after halftime. The reigning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week also had seven rebounds.
“He took some timely shots,” Schmidt said of Farell. “We need that from him.”
In addition to 19 points, six assists and five rebounds, Kyrell Luc led the SBU defense with three steals and two of the team’s seven blocked shots.
“It’s my job to be a nuisance on the pitch,” Luc said. “I have to get the loose balls, climb and chase blocks if I have to. Being a pest on defense makes me an offense.”
The Screaming Eagles, new to Division I this season, shot more than 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3. They were capped at 24 of 63 and 9 of 28 by the Bonnies.
Schmidt praised his team for defending the 3-point shot and keeping Southern Indiana’s big players inside.
“I thought we did a good job on post-double teaming and made them a little hesitant,” he said. “It was crucial to keep the ball in front of us. I thought our boys did a good job.”
Venning totaled 12 points in the first half and helped the Bonnies to a 30-24 lead.
He said his biggest gains since joining the Bona squad have been “definitely my persistence to go for a second, third and fourth try. Just trouble, really.”
Praising Venning, Luc said: “He worked in the gym. You can see. Everyone worked. Not just Chad. I give credit to all my teammates.”
Guard Isaiah Swope led the Screaming Eagles with 21 points and five assists. The Ohio Valley Conference team missed out on top scorer Jelani Simmons, who played just 13 minutes and retired with an apparent knee injury four minutes before halftime.
After a 1 of 8 start on 3-pointers, Southern Indiana connected with three straights from the perimeter in the first half to take their only 20-16 lead.
It did not last long. Bona overcame 17 turnovers by shooting 27 of 51 from the field, 7 of 16 on 3-pointers, and 19 of 24 on free throws. The Bonnies also forced 15 turnovers and held a 26-10 advantage in fast break points.
Banks III rounded out the Bonnies’ scoring with 12 points.
“We got better shots in the second half,” said Schmidt, whose team scored 50 points after the break.
“We have to keep getting better,” he added. “We’re not where we need to be. Sometimes we look good. Sometimes it seems like we haven’t practiced. But we keep getting better.”
Next up, the Bonnies take on Notre Dame at 4:00 p.m. Friday in Elmont as part of the Gotham Classic.
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